James Hazell (Hazell)

Created by P.B. Yuill
Joint pseudonym of Gordon Williams and Terry Venables

“My name is James Hazell and I’m the biggest bastard who ever pushed your bell-button.”
— from Hazell Plays Solomon

When cocky Cockney private eye JAMES HAZELL first showed up in 1974 in the novel The Boneless Keeper, it opened up a whole new era in British crime fiction. No more tea-sipping Inspector Inbred-Jones inquiring into a wee spot of nastiness at the manor, or Millicient Teathorp discovering a corpse in the rose bushes. Nope, Hazell was the real goods, an “American”-style hardboiled dick prowling the meaner streets of London, the “biggest bastard who ever pushed your doorbell.”

But he was more than a late blooming denizen of the Mushroom Jungle –he was no transplanted and translated British facsimile of Philip Marlowe or Mike Hammer. He was a well-rounded, believable character in his own right; more than capable of holding his own. Sure, Hazell was occasionally crude and rude, and he wasn’t afraid to mix it up with whoever stood in his way, be it cops or robbers, now and then. Nor was he shy about taking the law into his own hands. But he was also capable of great compassion and empathy, making him a sort of knockaround Lew Archer.

As an ex-cop, none of this endeared him to his former colleagues, particularly dour Scot CID man “Choc” Minty, who was always trying to get Hazell’s license yanked.

You see, Hazell was booted off the Metropolitan Police Force because of a “dodgy ankle” (courtesy of a wages gang who smashed it three or four times in a car door). The loss of employment, not to mention pride, lead to a bout with the bottle and a divorce. “That bloody ankle! It cost me my career, my marriage and almost my sanity” is the way Hazell puts it.

Left to his own devices, he set up shop as a gumshoe with his cousin Tel, visions of Chandler no doubt dancing in his head. But the tawdriness of his new career, not to mention the regular beatings he went through, soon wore the glamour off. And it didn’t help that the .44 Magnum he bought to play with the big boys scared him to death.

When Hazell arrived on television a few years later, another medium’s status quo was shattered. The show served the books well, and Nicholas Ball nailed the lead with a effective mesh of toughness and genuine affability, not to mention some spot-on voiceover narration.The show proved to be quite popular, despite the usual gripes about violence, disrespect for the British police, etc.


Creator P.B. Yuill was the pen name for the corrobative efforts of journalist and novelist Gordon Williams, who’s probably best-known for penning the book that the controversial 1971 film Straw Dogs was based on, and Terry Venables, a popular British footballer and club manager. Hazell made his debut in a minor role in their first collaboration, 1974’s The Bornless Keeper.


  • “The Hazell books (are) probably the best crime novels written by a former professional sportsman.”
    — John Williams, author of Into the Badlands
  • “The books are short, zesty and well-plotted and very easy to find second-hand — you’d be a mug not to try one!”
    Tipping My Fedora (5 fedora tips out of 5)
  • “Without Hazell there would have been no Sharman.”
    — Mark Timlin, creator of South London P.I. Nick Sharman.


  • Hazell’s lawyer, Gordon Gregory, works for the law firm of Venables, Venables, Williams and Gregory. Venables?


  • The Bornless Keeper (1974)
  • Hazell Plays Solomon (1974)
  • Hazell and the Three-Card Trick (1975)
  • Hazell and the Menacing Jester (1976)


  • “Hazell and the Patriot” (1977, Winter’s Crimes 9; also 1993, The Armchair Detective)


    (1978-80, ITV)
    22 hour-long episodes
    Producers: June Roberts, Tim Aspinall
    A Thames Television Network Production
    Starring Nicholas Ball as JAMES HAZELL
    Also starring Roddy McMillan, Desmond McNamara

    • “Hazell Plays Solomon” (January 16, 1978)
    • “Hazell Pays a Debt”” (January 23, 1978)
    • “Hazell and the Walking Blur” (January 30, 1978)
    • “Hazell Settles the Accounts” (February 6, 1978)
    • “Hazell Meets the First Eleven” (February 13, 1978)
    • “Hazell and the Rubber-heel Brigade” (February 20, 1978)
    • “Hazell Goes to the Dogs” (February 27, 1978)
    • “Hazell and the Weekend Man” (March 6, 1978)
    • “Hazell Works for Nothing” (March 13, 1978)
    • “Hazell and the Maltese Vulture” (March 20, 1978)
    • “Hazell and the Baker Street Sleuth” (March 27, 1978)
    • “Hazell and the Deptford Virgin” (April 26, 1979)
    • “Hazell Bangs the Drum” (May 3, 1979)
    • “Hazell Gets the Boot” (May 10, 1979)
    • “Hazell Gets the Bird” (May 17, 1979)
    • “Hazell and the Big Sleep” (May 24, 1979)
    • “Hazell and the Suffolk Ghost” (May 31, 1979)
    • “Hazell and Hyde” (June 7, 1979)
    • “Hazell and the Happy Couple” (June 14, 1979)
    • “Hazell Gets the Part” (June 21, 1979)
    • “Hazell and the Greasy Gunners” (June 28, 1979)
    • “Hazell and the Public Enemy” (July 5, 1979)


  • April 19, 2021
    The Bottom Line: Hard-boiled AND British? You bet your arse! 
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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